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Is Burnley the key to the expenses betting stategy?

May 11th, 2009

After the revelations could the LDs unseat Kitty Ussher?

Burnley in north-east Lancashire is where my family comes from and, indeed, my grandfather was Labour mayor of the neighbouring town of Nelson in the mid-1930s. The very idea that it could be anything other than rock-solid Labour seems extraordinary. Yet I now think there’s a chance that the Lib Dems could take it – and if Burnley went this way what will it say about other places?

There are three factors that might make it hard for the public school and Oxford educated Ussher to win a second term:-

  • The expenses expose: The Telegraph revealed over the weekend that within a year of becoming an MP she enquired (see here and here) about making £20,000 worth renovations to the London house she bought some time before being elected. She specifically requested that the reply went to her private home rather than her commons office.
  • The strength of the Lib Dems: The composition of the district council is now LD23-LAB12-CON6-BNP4 suggesting that Nick Clegg’s party has a largish acitvist base. At the 2005 general election (notional) the party came in second place only 5778 votes behind.
  • The threat of the BNP:At the 2001 general election the party secured 11.3% of the vote and has an established councillor base.
  • All of this together with Labour’s big decline nationally, I suggest, creates the ideal conditions for a Lib Dem victory – the activist base has something to get its teeth into and the Tories are nowhere.

    Burnley is the 22nd most marginal Labour seat on the LD list. In how many of the other 21 could the detail of the expenses of the incumbent Labour MP provide the peg for a powerful ground campaign? My guess is that when all the detail is available quite a few of them will come into the frame.

    Undoubtedly Clegg’s party is going to be under pressure in a number of seats where it is defending against the Tories. But are the conditions being created where any losses will be more than made up by gains from Labour?

    I had a Lib Dem buy spread bet at 45 seats. Yesterday I bought again at the 51 level. In 2005, of course, the party then led by Charles Kennedy won 62 seats so I’ve still got a reasonable comfort zone. As yet there is no specific Burnley constituency betting market.

    Mike Smithson






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